I find analogies useful when trying to understand and dissect an issue. It is helpful to look at online marketing using print concepts, because print already has a well-established way of going about things.
Print (magazine and newspaper advertising) has been around since 1704, when a real estate ad ran in the Boston News Letter. Publishers, advertisers, and writers have had several hundred years to work out the kinks. So there is now a good understanding of what print advertising is and what it can accomplish.
The first online advertising of any kind was a spam email sent in 1978 on the "first Internet." The first banner ad appeared in 1993, but the idea of banner advertising really took off in 1994 with the first online magazine, Hotwired (1994-1999), which was the digital version of Wired magazine. So, at the outset, online and offline advertising were close relatives.
By 2000, the Internet was crazy. I quit a good job and went to work at a dot com. I was out on my ass within weeks when the dot com bubble burst. We just couldn't wrap our heads this new technology, which seemed like a combination of voodoo and particle physics. Everyone was scrambling to create big ideas without connecting those ideas to moneymaking. So investors pulled out and the whole thing crashed.
This was less than 20 years ago, which is an eternity in the world of technological innovation. But you have to ask yourself what exactly does technological innovation change, and how deep does that change go? Faster is not different, in the sense that vanilla is different from chocolate. And even then, both vanilla and chocolate can be ice cream. So trying to organize and make sense of ideas requires a framework, and that is precisely what online marketing is missing.
I think of Google as a giant and fluid publication filled with the work of guest authors (websites). In the print world, this would be called an "anthology." But Google changes constantly, whereas anthologies can sit on a shelf and collect dust for eons.
Google and anthologies need good authors. Anthologies are put together by human editors who sift through the crap and give you the good stuff. Anthologies are always focused on a theme, so you don't need to worry about getting an article on botany when you are interested in 17th century poetry.
The online world is pure chaos. Imagine 4.65 billion pages tossed up in the air and little robots running around trying to organize them and give the right pages to 1.67 billion people, all at the same time. Worse yet, all those millions of pages are like little monkeys chattering to be noticed and scratching each other's eyes out whenever they can. So it's a system, but just barely.
Nonetheless, Google's system is good enough that people use it, at least for now.
If you want to understand something, follow the money. Google makes its money by running ads. So do print magazines and newspapers. If the right consumers don't see those ads, advertisers won't buy them.
In the print world, this dilemma is solved by making sure the content around the ad is targeted to the right kind of consumer. Because print reading is a slow process, consumers can't help but notice eye-catching display ads.
Newspapers and magazines supported an entire infrastructure of journalists, printers, and advertising sellers (ad agencies) who made this possible. People valued the information in newspapers and magazines enough to pay for them. And, many people bought newspapers just for the classified section because this was where they could find jobs, homes for sale, personals, and used items. Newspapers didn't die due just to free news on television and Google. They also died because Craigslist decimated up to 70% of their revenues.
Television follows a model similar to print. Different shows target different types of people who buy different products. Daytime soaps got the name because they ran laundry soap commercials to housewives. Beer commercials run during sports events. Again, the television industry has had a lot of practice in figuring out what works and what doesn't.
Both print and television are relatively controlled, static media with limited choices. When you turn on the television, you know what show you will watch. When you type something into Google, you are never quite sure what you will get. Google tries to make the best of it with it's "I'm feeling lucky" search option. But it's a serious problem as far as advertisers are concerned because there is no straightforward way to control when and where an ad will appear, or what content will be next to it. If you run a PPC ad for your pool service company, that ad might be surrounded by websites run by your competitors. That is not cool, in my opinion.
The print industry published its own content and sold its own space. Television does the same thing. Google, unlike traditional media, only controls half the equation. The sell the ads, but they don't publish the content. Instead, they rely on millions of undisciplined, unregulated publishers who work for free. The algorithm has the job of cleaning it up, but Google is pitting the focused minds of several thousand brainiacs against the self-serving interests of millions.
Google tries to fix this situation in various ways. It constantly tightens up on its robot editor (algorithm) to deliver more relevant content. It only charges for ads that are clicked. And it allows those clicks to take the visitor directly to your website, where they may or may not see a really convincing page (depending on how good you are at marketing). The system works well enough for sophisticated retailers with money to burn. But small businesses just can't handle the complexity well enough to achieve a strong ROI. An article in Street Fight Magazine admits Google has been working on the problem since 2011 without success.
Why should Google care about small business, anyway? Again, follow the money. Small businesses make up 98% of the business economy. They produce a huge chunk of the content on the Internet. If small businesses and small bloggers give up on their websites, or use them just as calling cards, the Internet would thin out dramatically. Google would be far less valuable to people like you and me because there would be little variety.
But small businesses are finding it incredibly hard to compete in organic (free) search with big brands, more established brands, and sites like Amazon. And they don't have the time, money, or expertise to fight back using SEO. Instead, small businesses with ad budgets are shifting their money to social media advertising, followed by print. Small businesses without ad budgets are using free social media and email. Many small businesses say they don't get their leads online anyway.
There are always marketing professionals. In Rome, there was a stonecutter somewhere who chiseled "Flavio's Togas" into a marble column. Traditional media spawned a whole industry of traditional media experts, from copywriters like myself to media planners.
The arrival of the Internet disrupted that model. Old people like myself had to reinvent ourselves. Other folks stepped into the vacuum to offer their digital expertise. We are all middlemen in a transaction between a seller (Google) and the buyer (the advertiser). That transaction is still amorphous and unsettled. So, you have many middlemen trying to define what Internet marketing really is and how to do it.
For example, first we had SEO. Then we had content marketing. And now we have content curation. Ideas seem to pop up, catch fire, and then fizzle as Internet marketers try to define and find order in a new technology of communication. If there was any solid ground, someone would have stepped on it by now. But right now, despite the official-sounding jargon and the mincing of data, no one really knows how to control the Internet, not even Google. Take content curation... that gets right back to the idea of anthologizing content. It is a mirror process. Why bother with it? Because the creation of original content like this post is incredibly laborious. It is largely an act of love, not good business sense. Working for free to create content for Google is just too expensive, yet that is how the system works – and why the price paid for content is abysmally low.
My prediction is the monied publishers will create walled gardens where they can control both the content and the advertising. And they will erect barriers of some sort to ensure users are qualified consumers for the products being advertised. This is purely a print business model, regardless of the actual technology. Google will have to affiliate with these publishers, which will reduce them to being what they really are: a technology platform.
Small businesses will migrate to local platforms that are affordable and focused; they are already using social media (mainly Facebook) in this way. As far as middlemen like myself go, well I have no idea where we will end up.
Here's recent research about blogging, excluding local SEO. If you're a newbie, read all of it and Google terms any unfamiliar terms like "alt tag." If you're an experienced blogger, the takeaway for 2019 is: focus more on brand building and creating a good user experience than on SEO hacks.
As of December 2018, according to InternetLiveStats, there were nearly 2 billion website and blogs. This includes 75 million WordPress sites.
So, there is a ton of clutter. It is really hard to get on page one of Google's search results, especially if you are going up against established competitors.
If you understand what each party in a search wants, you can do a better job of fulfilling their intent (search purpose).
Google wants to sell ads. To do that, it needs to have lots of users.
People use Google for four reasons:
Google is the dominant search engine because it consistently provides a better user experience. This means:
Although 99% of the Internet is made up of non-dynamic websites, a Google search can hand you off to a site that is itself a search engine:
Pro blogs are used mainly as a search engine optimization (SEO) tactic to:
If the website is an e-commerce site or a consultancy site (like this one), the goal is to attract the kind of visitors who are likely to convert into paying customers.
Otherwise, blog are monetized by running ads or affiliate links.
Personal blogs that are written for self-expression, not business reasons, are a different kettle of fish.
Google is constantly refining its algorithm to deliver better results. Minor updates occur around 600 times a year. Major updates occur less frequently but have an impact on SEO and website revenues.
Google also continually changes how results are displayed based on user behavior.
For example, now teasers make it easier for mobile users to see the answer to a query without opening a webpage.
SEO is good to a point, but Google does not want sites to focus on SEO hacks instead of quality content.
Nor does Google want it to be so easy to get traffic organically (through search) there is no need to buy paid ads.
So, when a Google tool becomes abused or problematic, it usually gets shut down.
PageRank, which ranks domain authority, was hidden from webmasters in 2013. The same year, Google implemented its nefarious "keyword not provided" – which hid organic traffic sources.
When it comes to whether businesses should hire an SEO consultant, Google admits they can be useful – but then writes a lot of scary stuff about how unethical SEOs can permanently damage your site.
RankBrain, introduced by Google in 2015, used machine-learning to help Google's search algorithm deliver better results. By "better," I mean the results were more relevant to the intent of searchers.
Google is getting to be very good at semantic search, or understanding the intent behind natural language. Its desire to move beyond keywords is one of the reasons for costly investments in artificial intelligence (AI), voice search, and devices like Google Assistant.
Google is now using an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm in a third of searches. AI does a much better job of understanding and matching a searcher's intent to an author's intent. When Google gets sophisticated enough, things like links won't matter.
Google has a way to go, yes. Google's AI has an IQ of ~47, which is smarter than Siri and Bing, but lower than that of a six-year old child.
Why would I ignore the advice of SEO experts (like Tylor Hermanson) who advocate building content around keywords?
Because Google itself is trending away from keywords toward semantic (natural) language.
This is controversial, I know.
It is still important to signal the purpose of your content with keywords.
But this really isn't a matter of keywords. It is commonsense communication when writing an article for an audience.
I still check Google Keyword Planner to be sure my topic has sufficient interest (traffic). But beyond that, I just write naturally.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a matter of giving users what they want in such a way that it also appeals to Google.
Text written mainly for Google (i.e., to do well in search engine results) is usually of low quality from a human perspective.
In a nutshell, Google wants bloggers to provide content that satisfies the search intent of Google users.
Google itself says it best:
These algorithms analyze hundreds of different factors to try to surface the best information the web can offer, from the freshness of the content, to the number of times your search terms appear and whether the page has a good user experience. In order to assess trustworthiness and authority on its subject matter, we look for sites that many users seem to value for similar queries. If other prominent websites on the subject link to the page, that’s a good sign the information is high quality.
For a typical query, there are thousands, even millions, of webpages with potentially relevant information. So to help rank the best pages first, we also write algorithms to evaluate how useful these webpages are.
There are more than 200 factors that go into the algorithm Google uses to identify quality content.
An algorithm is simply a software program, similar to a mathematical formula.
Google crawls your site using your site's links, including your navigation. In the process, it applies its algorithm to index your content and determine whether a specific article deserves to be on the first page of its search results.
Google's Panda algorithm update in February 2011 was intended to prevent sites with low-quality content from making it into top search results. In 2018, Google further defined what it meant by low-quality content in its updated Quality Rater Guidelines.
The Quality Rate Guidelines are a set of instructions for Google employees to help them look at search results and evaluate how well the algorithm is doing. These benchmarks are used to refine the algorithm, not to manually downgrade specific sites.
Google sums up what it means by "low quality" content:
(Even if their purpose is beneficial) low quality pages do not achieve their purpose well because they are lacking in an important dimension, such as having an unsatisfying amount of main content, or because the creator of the main content lacks expertise for the purpose of the page.”
Google states that low quality content has "an unsatisfying amount of information" and the information itself lacks expertise. Articles that are "demonstrably inaccurate" will be ranked lowest.
Google specifically calls out click bait, which are articles with "exaggerated or shocking" titles. This means articles with titles like "Why your blog article sucks" are no longer going to work, even if they are attention-grabbing.
"Your Money Your Life" (YMYL) pages that give advice on finances, health, safety, etc. are held to a higher standard. This means the information must be created by named creators of expertise and authority, any transactions must be secure, privacy policies must be in place, and the entire site must have a consistent purpose. Anonymous articles on YMYL sites "should be rated lowest."
Finally, the purpose of the article must be crystal clear. A page with no clear purpose will be ranked at "the lowest quality." So, your content has to ultimately line up with your site goal and every article has to be part of a larger content strategy.
Content creators can no longer be anonymous. Nor can they use pseudonyms, unless they happen to be working under a long-standing alias that is well-known on the Internet.
Google also seems to be saying it will evaluate your content within the context of your broader reputation, i.e. social media profiles and general authority and fame on the Internet. This means it will only get harder for newcomers to rank well in search results.
Failing to maintain your site can penalize your content. This means site owners have to:
Malicious sites, including hate sites and those with detrimental downloads, will be ranked lowest
Google relies on search queries to determine what Internet users are interested in. Relevance is how well an article or page answers a user's search query.
As long as Google can match search queries with the most relevant results, it will remain the top search engine.
If an article doesn't relate to a search query, it's not going to show up in search results. Ultimately, your content has to reflect the search interests of your desired audience.
Typically, relevance is strongly correlated to an article's keywords.
Properly targeted keywords alone aren't enough to establish content relevance. Google looks at other factors on your page, like:
Further, Google evaluates your content against other web pages and historical web searches. Some factors they look at include:
A really important metric is the length of time people spend on your page. This suggests the level of user engagement, which is directly correlated to the relevance of your content.
Also related to length of time on the page, or "dwell time," is the bounce rate.
The bounce rate is the percentage of people who leave a page without going deeper. It may mean people got what they wanted, like a phone number to call you for a consult, or bookmarked the page to read later.
But a high bounce rate usually indicates people did not like your site, for whatever reason. Or it means your tracking tags are implemented incorrectly.
If a visitor clicks on an outbound link in your content, it can register as a bounce unless your developer has set up events.
In general, a good bounce rate is somewhere between 30%-45%.
This will vary with the type of site, the type of visitor, the type of page, and whether your site is being viewed on desktop or mobile.
Most visitors leave a webpage in 15 seconds. Zowie.
Videos are one way to boost user time on page (engagement). They also appear in search results.
Some people, like Rand Fishkin, have been using video for years as a SEO tactic. He includes a text transcript of his videos for Google (for keywords and indexing) and for people like myself who prefer the written word.
Neil Patel has been using prerecorded "webinars." These audio presentations draw about 1000 people per session because Neil is well known as an SEO expert. While most people will watch no more than 4 minutes of video in one sitting, his users stick for 60 minutes. This signals tremendous engagement to Google and is more valuable than keywords. Neil does not include a transcript so you have to watch for the full hour, not scan text quickly.
According to a reading software firm, the average adult reads 200 words per minute with a comprehension rate of 60%.
A 3,000-word article requires 15 minutes of reading time, but works out to 20 minutes or more of video.
Researchers have found video comprehension is significantly higher than reading.
Video also allows content creators to forge a stronger emotional bond with their audiences.
If the Internet sinks into a sea of sameness, Google won't be able to serve up meaningful results. So unique (original) content is critically important.
Google explicitly tries to filter out duplicate articles from search results. You can't syndicate the same article in several places on the web and expect to do well. Nor can you (heaven forbid) plagiarize someone else's content.
But you can quote an article (that's what quote marks are for) and use content from other sources, like YouTube, as long as you add some sort of unique value.
Rand Fishkin, who left Moz to found SparkToro, covers the subject of original content really well in one of his wonderful Whiteboard Fridays. He sums up the meaning of unique value as follows:
What I mean when I say 'unique value' and what the search engines would like you to do and are building algorithms around is providing value that no other sources, no other sites on the web are specifically providing. That could mean that you take a look at the visitor's intent, the searcher's intent or your customer's intent and you say, 'Hey, I'm going to answer each of these things that this person is trying to achieve.'
It's no longer enough to have good content. You have to have the very best content out there. This requires that you:
I Googled "The Science of Blogging," and got only five results. All of them, except the top-ranking article, are based more on personal opinion than objective evidence. The top article, written in 2014, outperforms fresher content published in 2018. This tells me that, while there are thousands of articles on how to blog. there is room for a brawnier article on this particular topic.
Orbit Media's survey of 1000 bloggers provides some insights into content length and search engine results.
First and foremost, 42% of bloggers who produce really long articles (2000 words or more) report "strong results." Yet, only 18% of bloggers write long content. Why? Well, longer pieces take 6 or more hours to write. The average blog post (about 1000 words) takes 3.5 hours to produce. Given the pressure to publish frequently and quickly, pro bloggers are far more likely to write shorter pieces with around 1000 words.
Copy length is a simple signal that the article could be in-depth. Combine that with the bounce rate plus time on the page, and you get a pretty good idea of whether an article is truly informative and relevant to its audience.
Want proof that longer content does better in Google?
Glad you asked.
SERPIQ ran a 2018 study on the top 10 results in search queries. Articles with 2,350-2,450+ words placed in the top 4 results. Articles with around 2000 words ranked in 10th position. And articles with fewer than 2000 words did not appear in the top 10 results.
Two years earlier, in 2016, it was enough to write 1,890 words to get on page one according to a Backlinko study of one million search results
Clearly, the trend is toward longer, not shorter, content.
Google users are not goldfish, meaning the facts contradict oft-cited statistics stating the average Internet user has a lower attention span than your favorite aquarium pet. People are perfectly happy to consume long-form information as long as it is truly useful to them.
Long-form content has an advantage over shorter content because it is more likely to tell the whole story. Brian Dean noticed, and by inference so has Google, that:
People hate searching around for bits of information. Putting it all in one place saves them time and energy.
But Brian Dean's real point was that long, comprehensive articles are more shareable and get more natural backlinks – and both are huge SEO boosters.
Google uses the concept of domain (site) authority to determine which sites are most valuable and should rank highest in its results. Many many factors go into authority, including backlinks and sharing.
Google's idea of authority is broader than the page ranking metric called "Page Authority," which was developed by SEO software company Moz.
A number of years ago, a metric called "PageRank" was extremely important. It was based almost entirely on the number of backlinks ti a page.
Now PageRank (number of backlinks) is not the only measure of quality; it is simply one factor.
There are two ways to get authority: sharing and backlinks. Backlinks are links to your content from external sites. If those sites are of good quality, it suggests your site has credibility and deserve to be at the top of search results.. Likewise, links from spammy or low-quality sites will hurt your site.
Social shares not only provide backlinks, they signal that your content is worth noticing. Comments are also form of social signaling that your site is interesting and relevant to users.
Google knows how much and where your content is shared and uses that information to help determine your article's value.
Sadly, the majority of new content doesn't get shared at all. Most readers simply do not consider hitting those juicy share buttons.
But – here's the good news – long new content is most likely to get shared.
In fact, Buffer found super-long articles with 3,000-10,000 words get about twice as many shares as articles with 1,000 words or less.
Backlinks (links from another site) have been the backbone of search since Google was invented in 1998.
In 2014, Matt Cutts, Google's head of spam search at the time, said that backlinks will lose their importance over time. But, he conceded, it would be some years before Google could come up with a better shortcut for evaluating a page's authority.
Authority is a form of respect. When sites link to you, they are signaling they trust your site and view it as having expertise.
Backlinks per se are not enough.
Google is looking for high quality backlinks from sites that (a) retain editorial control, and (b) are themselves quality sites.
This means that automatic backlinks from blog comments and directory submissions are no longer helpful.
If you are an average Joe (i.e., non-influencer) you can't just publish fantastic content and hope the Internet sits up and takes notice.
Most content writers have to implement some sort of linking strategy. In the post-Penguin algorithm world, there are three fundamental ways to get high quality backlinks::
In reality, these steps have been overplayed and it is d*mn hard to get them to work. That's why most successful bloggers and online marketers use personal networking to expand their influence. Yes, some of this occurs in online forums.
It requires that you emerge out of your dark cave and attend industry conferences, WordCamps, and face-to-face gatherings.
Quality backlinks are always "natural backlinks."
In Google's eyes, natural backlinks are quality backlinks built up over time.
So, it would be more "natural" in Google's algorithm for your article to accumulate one backlink a week over a period of months than to accumulate the same number of backlinks in one day.
You can try to spoof Google with SEO tricks but the odds of winning against 88,110 full-time geniuses are pretty slim in the long run.
If you violate the intent behind Google's Webmaster rules – for example, you spin (repurpose) a guest post for dozens of mediocre sites so you can backlinks from them – your strategy is likely to result in a Google penalty.
If your site has been penalized, you will get a notice from Google or you will see your traffic nosedive in your Google Analytics account.
Bloggers must publish lots of quality content to appear in search results
Don't send your blog posts by email to subscribers. Send your subscribers to your blog post.
Most people leave a webpage within 15 seconds so you have to rope users into your content quickly.
In other words, your content has to be interesting to your audience.
Remember earlier in this article, when I stated why people use Google? Well, those are your cues for how to have more interesting content. Choosing the right subject matter and approach can help make your articles more relevant.
If you are a startup selling something brand new, you can't use search terms to attract traffic simply because no one is looking for your solution.
Uber didn't use online marketing when it launched in 2009. It relied on a combination of early adopter advocacy, referral marketing, customer loyalty programs, and buzz-worthy stunts to get its brand on the road.
When Lyft started three years later, the concept of ride-sharing had already become embedded in the market. Lyft could draw on a new lexicon to use in its digital advertising.
Narrowly focused blogs (niche sites) win traffic more quickly and easily than more generalized sites. You stand an excellent chance of gaining fast traction as long as:
Harsh Agrawal wrote a step-by-step post about how to create a micro-niche blog site with just 29 articles that earned 2 million views. The key, aside from perfect content optimization, was to find a niche (subject) with strong audience potential that no one else had exploited. His traffic was entirely organic, meaning it came from search words, not social media or extensive link building. Even though the Panda update has made the tactic less profitable, it is still possible.
Overall, broad authority sites do better in Google than niche sites. There are two reasons why:
User experience is not really separate from SEO because a bad user experience will produce a high bounce rate. A high bounce rate will negatively impact your SEO.
In fact, modern SEO experts believe that user experience is the ultimate factor used by Google to determine search engine page results (SERPs).
User sastisfaction is the ultimate decider of what site gets to rank number one not which site has the most links or which site is the most spam free or any combination of those kinds of metrics.Search Engine Land
User experience is a matter of having good content, high readability, and good design.
Aside from following typographical rules, format your articles so they can be easily scanned. That means breaking up copy into headlines, subheads, and bulleted lists.
Many blog writers begin long articles with a table of contents that links to each section in the article. Readers can skip to the section that interests them.
Chris Brogan advocates beginning your article with a summary of what you will say, then drilling down to the details.
There are many reasons to use images in your blog articles:
At the very least, you should use a featured image.
Beyond that, there are no hard and fast rules about the number of images you should include. Some bloggers suggest using one image per 150 to 300 words to break up the content.
Many pro bloggers use custom-designed images. The average stock photo is not going to help your brand.
Usability expert Jakob Nielsen discovered small or difficult to read fonts are one of the biggest complaints about website.
Follow these rules when it comes to your blog's typography:
Blog owners often do their own website development and design.
Design should always be done to satisfy the needs of users, not the tastes of website owners. According to Blue Corona, site design has a big impact on how long people stay on your site and whether they trust your brand.
The number one mistake is putting too much on a page; clean design is more engaging.
Page load has been a factor in desktop search results for some time. People are frustrated by slow sites and tend to bounce off them.
This is especially true of mobile devices; 40% of mobile users leave if a page takes more than 2 seconds to load. Google introduced an algorithm change in 2018 that negatively impacts slow mobile pages.
2 seconds is the threshold for e-commerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under a half second.Maile Ohye, Google
Style always matters. This means:
This is a clever idea that comes from Buffer. Test how well topics and headlines resonate with your audience by using social media.
Your headline has to be short and amazing or no one will click on it and read your post. In fact, according to Copyblogger, only 20% of people who read a headline go deeper and read the article.
P.S. Headlines with powerful verbs and adverbs do better than those with lots of adjectives and nouns.
You need great headlines not just for blog articles but also for emails, press releases, marcomm materials, etc.
Your website or blog is part of your brand; it is a brand asset. Your brand is your business personality. Being a brand can help you avoid being dependent on Google search because people will look for you by name; this traffic is direct search, not organic, and alway ranks first.
In fact, the top 100 Google search terms are mainly brand names.
Being different from other brands can help you stand out, create an online reputation, and develop a following that exists beyond your SEO efforts.
SEO guru Neil Patel advocates being bold when creating an online brand and suggests that marketers do the following:
He is no stranger to using controversy as a marketing strategy and has positioned himself as someone who will go to any lengths to test an idea. For example, he published numerous "lifestyle marketing" articles that showcased his purchases of a $1.7 million condo in Vegas and over-the-top watches. His articles assert that, while he "is not a materialistic guy," these purchases allowed him to win more high-profile business. (I think the campaign was insincere and simply turned luxuries into tax write-offs.)
Personal brands like Seth Godin are thought leaders. Seth Godin can safely ignore SEO because his tribe follows him religiously. He has been publishing pithy blog posts every day for years. He emails back anyone who contacts him (I know; like an ass, I did this in 2010 just to test him).
Seth Godin also publishes traditional print books, which is a proven technique to establish thought leadership.
Building a brand these days is about creating a community. Even companies are trending toward having a personal face (think Elon Musk); if they don't have a charismatic leader of their own, they hire influencers.
Fast Company wrote an article about this trend, stating the best companies are cashing in on their ability to create "belonging." There is a vacuum of loneliness, with people being socially connected online yet isolated in reality. Brands, including small businesses, are cashing in by creating connections between their customers.
The best bloggers can't be personally connected to their followers in real life, but they attempt to be accessible, transparent, and personable. A point of view and a distinctive persona are requirements for this.
The majority of pro bloggers (Neil Patel, Jeff Bullas, Kristi Hines, and many others) use email to nurture their community.
At some point, they each want to monetize their blog by selling services or lessons. But this doesn't happen during the first or even second visit to a site. Instead, the community has to be nurtured using old-fashioned drip campaigns.
The digital world is saturated and so is email. Sharon Hurley Hall wrote a very good article for Optinmonster with the full picture. Here are some top notes:
The bottom line: Forget sending boring newsletters and tired offers; emails today must be brilliant.
The Internet is full of copycat bloggers following the same advice. T'o gain a tribe, you need to be different.
Often, the best way to do that is to be completely yourself. There are always haters and trolls. Grow a thick skin.
Don't be afraid to swim upstream. You may fail, but failure is just success that has gotten rained on. Be persistent and find your voice; eventually, you should make it.
Did I leave something out? Let me know in the comments and I'll get back to you quickly.